Alien Attack


Written in Written for Language Graphics Published Size
Apple II+ Apple II+ Applesoft BASIC Hi-Res N/A 52 sectors

This was the first in a series of 5 Alien Attack games... games which were a copy of a copy. I modeled Alien Attack after one of my favorite games, Threshold (Warren Schwader, 1981 Sierra On-Line)... and Threshold was a copy of Astro-Blaster (Sega, 1981).

I loved playing Astro-Blaster in the arcade and when I could play it at home (Threshold), it was even cooler. I modeled the screen layout of Alien Attack after Threshold since I played it quite a bit more. But sadly, since this was only my third game or so, it's just awful and no fun at all.

I had yet to figure out how to code a game properly for it to be enjoyable - witness the way you have to wait while your shot moves up to the top of the screen.  Blah.

Since I loved the simple concept of Astro-Blaster, I kept making Alien Attack sequels... 5 to be exact, except that I never finished the fifth one.  I believe I was developing Alien Attack V in 1984 and it was looking very nice indeed, but I decided that I needed to concentrate on actually creating games that could be published in magazines, and giant 6502 assembly language games were pretty much impossible to print.  What I did have finished on Alien Attack V was a really nice playfield with totally different sounds, colors, super-smooth control of your ship, etc.  It was a bit beyond Alien Attack IV (which you can actually try out), but alas, was never finished.

I actually named all the monsters in Alien Attack when I drew my first game ad (see below); I didn't name these guys when I made the game - I just made the shapes and programmed them.  Let's see, I named Byte after one of my favorite games, Snake Byte by Chuck Sommerville.  Mothra was named after Godzilla's nemesis, of course.  For Birgan, I wanted to make up a name that sounded like a Godzilla movie monster, but Gremmin and Dyzzar were totally just pulled outta my ass.  Oh, and the second ad I did, I spelled Dyzzar with only one 'z'.  Nice!

This is what you get when you lose all your ships: an original ending!

This is what you get when you lose all your ships: an original ending!

My First Meltdown

The first time I lost a game accidentally was when all my punchcards fell off the back of my bike.  That was no big deal because the game wasn't that big.
But Alien Attack had grown to be 102 sectors of BASIC at one point.  One day, while I was cleaning up some files on my disk, I typed DELETE ALIEN ATTACK.  Oh god.  Why?  I didn't know how to undelete back then.

The original shooter, Astro-Blaster!

The original shooter, Astro-Blaster!

Luckily, I was always printing out my games so I could debug them when I wasn't at my computer and I had a recent printout of Alien Attack (that was a massive stack of paper).  So, I decided that I would try to optimize the game before typing it all in again and I did a pretty good job because the resulting file was almost half the size of the original!

I also messed around a whole lot with DOS 3.3/ProDOS back then, so I figured out how to "copy-protect" my program listings.  If you type LIST at the BASIC prompt "]", normally the BASIC program in memory is listed and you can use CTRL-S to pause/unpause the listing.  Well, with a little trickery, I figured out how to make my entire listing invisible!

Oh, you wanna LIST my program and crack open its programming secrets??? NEVER!

Oh, you wanna LIST my program and crack open its programming secrets??? NEVER!

Check out the first Alien Attack advert that I did...


The Trendy Game

This is the second one I did, drawn in 1983

Alien Attack was the first game that started a couple important trends for me, even if they were strange.

First, I started naming my games alliteratively (same starting letter) and using two words.  If you look at a list of my games you'll notice a lot of them named with two words that have the same starting letter.  I guess it was one way to add a different twist to my games.  And after awhile, my goal was to fill the entire alphabet up with games titled this way, but I moved into the PC world and that goal of mine died along with the Apple II industry.

John Besnard was a popular Apple II programmer who used to name his games starting with "Bez" and, to me, it showed that he had a little more personality than your average game coder.  It was always funny to see a new game name he came up with and I thought the same thing about my game names.

The other trend I began with Alien Attack was drawing my own ads and packaging.  I was just being really creative and wanted to create my own ads, just to bring the game more to life for me - so I could see what it would look like if it was hanging on the wall with all the other games in a store.

I created my first ad for Alien Attack shortly after I created the game (along with my Bomb Attack ad).  The second ad I created was about a year later when I was just pumping out the ads for all my games at once.  You'll notice that in the second ad, Birgan was renamed to Quadraturd.  Why?  Who knows.  I think I was trying to be funny or something... yeah, funny TO MYSELF.  No one else saw these ads, by the way, since they were all hanging on my wall in my bedroom. (!)

You can click on the ads to the right and a new browser window will open up with a full-size version.  One very helpful hint for Internet Explorer users: press F11 when the new window opens up so you can see everything.  Pressing F11 again will bring the window back down to launch size.

Even today I still have ads for my games, except now I don't create them and they look a million times better!

Packaging History 101

Back when computer games were first sold in computer stores, packaging was usually a piece of cardboard folded in half that had a nice picture on the front and back while the inside was black & white text and graphics.

Computer store walls were usually covered in ziploc baggies with games in them; games that all had a folded cardboard brochure with the instructions in the middle.

Sometimes there were some folded and stapled 8.5"x11" pages with the instructions printed on them (this was the "manual", usually 3 pages. The Arcade Machine by Broderbund had the largest manual back in the daysof fold-over packaging - it was about 100 pages long!

To the left you can see a piece of Apple II gaming history: the packaging for an awesome game by Larry Miller, published by Sirius Software in 1981.  Sirius Software was my favorite action game company back then, especially since legendary programmer Nasir Gebelli worked for them until he started his own game company, Gebelli Software.

One of the cool things about Sirius games was they would say on the back of the packaging "Machine Language (48K)" or "Assembly Language (48K)" meaning that the game was coded in a HARDCORE language (not BASIC) and that it required only 48K to run.  I was so jealous of those two words!  I wanted to program in 6502 so badly and be able to write that on the back of my game package!

Ah well... that would come later.

Gameplay Instructions

To play Alien Attack, I strongly recommend downloading AppleWin (Windows OS) and playing it in full screen mode! The link to download AppleWin is on the Emulation Zone page.



Shoot the aliens and score.  Don't get directly below the alien or you will die.  Shoot 10 aliens and you reach the next level and see a different alien.  Get the high score..


Use the joystick to move and the button to fire.

Extra Info:

Watch your FUEL meter on the right-side - it will drain constantly.  If it reaches the bottom, you lose a ship.  To easily kill the aliens, move very slowly when you're close to them.  When they start firing, shoot 'em.  Also, if you get killed by an alien, move the joystick or you'll come back right under them again!